A good football coach can harness the talent of a team and help players focus on the intricacies of the game. The same is true of health coaches. They provide a pathway for clients to achieve personal goals and live healthier lives. Health coaches like Taylor Kohr are available to members of the Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium. Kohr, who works with Highmark Blue Shield, helps clients set lifestyle goals, including exercise, nutrition, weight control, improved sleep habits, smoking cessation. Kohr, who has a background in exercise physiology, chronic disease, cardiac rehabilitation and nutrition, spends time on the telephone with her client,s and guides them through their health journey by providing insights and establishing attainable goals. Kohr has been with Highmark for a little more than a year. She arrived prior to the beginning of the pandemic. Over the course of the pandemic, Kohr says people have been receptive to the guidance provided by the health coaches. “Having this real person on the line is beneficial. Once people talk to us, hear our voice and expertise, they tend to respond better to what we provide,” she says. “We create a personal connection and that helps a lot.” For those clients who want to lose weight, Highmark coaches use the “My Weight Management Journey” program. The coaches use this program to help their clients establish nutritional guidelines, an exercise plan and even an accountability program. Kohr checks in with her clients every two weeks. From that conversation, she will provide them with certain challenges over the next two weeks in order to hit their goals. “The coaches are here to help with these challenges along their journey and the members are typically receptive to them. It’s pretty helpful to have someone call in and check in with you periodically,” Kohr explains. A weight loss journey begins with a baseline of an individual’s height, weight and body mass index. A client’s progress is measured against the baseline and trends are shown in an analytics report, Kohr says. Leslie Ferrari, a reading specialist at Butler Intermediate High School, has been a client of Kohr for the past several months. The COVID-19 pandemic coupled with a broken hip led to some weight gain for Ferrari. She wanted to get a handle on her weight before it became a problem and turned to Kohr. “The health coaching program is great,” says Ferrari, 61. “I look forward to the calls with Taylor. We talk for 25 or 30 minutes and it’s so helpful. She provides an objective, supportive source of encouragement. She’s there to guide me along this weight loss journey.” Using the weight management plan, Kohr has set goals for Ferrari and helped her address one of her key weaknesses, what Ferrari calls “mindless eating.” That mindless eating, in addition to the sedentary lifestyle that set in while she recovered from her surgery, led to weight gain. Before the pandemic and accident, Ferrari says she was “super skinny” and wants to get back into her clothing. In addition to her guidance on mindless eating and other nutritional advice, Kohr has also helped Ferrari with some exercise goals. “I’m not as fast as I used to be,” she says. “I exercise the best as I can, given the limitations of my hip.” Under Kohr’s guidance, Ferrari has already lost about six pounds and has her eye on losing about 10 more. “The clothes I wanted to get into were an important motivator,” she says. “If I lose a few more pounds I won’t look like a stuffed sausage in them.” Ferrari’s injury, combined with the pandemic are part of contributing determinants of health that Highmark notes can impact our daily lives. Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of those determinants of health include stable housing, access to food, transportation and the like. In a Highmark YouTube video, Highmark Health Coach Terra Delia, a registered nurse, shares some typical social and economic obstructions to health that people may not consider on their own journey. “What are in people’s environments that affect their health,” she asks. Delia says people will often think they have what they need for good health, but once a health coach begins probing and asking questions, those determinants will begin to come to light. Delia shares a story of a Highmark client who was a high risk pregnancy. The woman and her boyfriend had both lost their jobs, and had no income and little food to eat. As a coach, Delia was able to bring a Highmark social worker onto the case who was able to provide some guidance and direction to find financial resources, food assistance and how to apply for WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. That assistance was able to tide the woman over until she found a new job. Delia explains that beyond advice, a Highmark health coach can provide a client with the resources they need to reach a goal or get through a difficult season in life. “It’s very rewarding to have such a positive impact on our members,” she says. For Ferrari, Kohr’s guidance has had an enormous impact. She says she is always excited to talk with Kohr about her goals. While the relationship is professional, Ferrari says she developed a personal bond with Kohr, as well. “She’s a calming influence,” Ferrari says of Kohr.